Occurrence of Natural Toxicants in Food Plants: A Mini-Review

  • Ikechukwu E Ezeagu Nutrition Unit, Department of Medical Biochemistry, University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus.
Keywords: Antinutritional factors, natural toxicants, food plants, review


Aim: To review the occurrence of natural toxicants in plant food and their toxicological implications.
Materials and Methods: A search in chemical and CAB abstracts, review of books and available literatures on the subject.
Results: While the great importance of plants as a major source of human food is recognized, the inherent limitations associated with plant-derived food stuffs, as a result of the occurrence of various antinutritional factors and toxicants, is reviewed. The quality and safety of food could be threatened by a host of factors, including a diverse range of natural compounds capable of precipitating deleterious effects in animals. The toxicants include, trypsin (protease) inhibitors, tannins and polyphenols, phytohemagglutinins (lectins), oxalate, phytic acid, cyanogenic glycosides, goitrogens, nitrates/nitrites, saponins, alkaloids and mycotoxins. The toxicological implications of these factors were highlighted. Mycotoxins from fungi that contaminate staple food grains are a danger to humans and animals alike and their economic importance in international trade is considerable.
Conclusion: Presence of antinutrients and toxicants in plant derived-food stuffs is a notable disadvantage as regards their utilization if unprocessed. Plant foods for human consumption should therefore be adequately processed such that toxicity is largely eliminated.
Key words: Antinutritional factors, natural toxicants, food plants, review
Journal of College of Medicine Vol.10(1) 2005: 34-42

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eISSN: 1118-2601